Pentagon Spokesman's Regular Briefing, Oct. 31
DoD News Briefing
Tuesday, October 31, 2000 1:30 p.m. EST
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
Q: Could you explain - could you tell us about why the Cole isn't
going through Suez?
Bacon: Well, the Cole is in the process of being loaded right. In
fact, if we put the lights down, I have some pictures, and we can talk
a little bit about the Cole and the Blue Marlin. This is the Cole
being towed out of Aden out to sea. And you can see the next picture
is the Blue Marlin on the right and the Cole obviously on the left.
You can see the Blue Marlin is submerged, and the Cole will be
positioned over the deck of the Blue Marlin, and then the Blue Marlin,
when the Cole is in the right place, will be pumped out and will rise
up again and then carry the Cole. And you can see more of this in the
Q: What day were these pictures taken?
Bacon: These pictures were taken, I believe, yesterday or the day
before. There is the Cole, the mast of the Cole is just behind the
bridge of the Blue Marlin, and she's positioning herself to be brought
across the deck. And then you can get one more picture of this. I
think there's one more perspective.
Now, the Cole is basically positioned over the deck of the Blue
Marlin, but the Blue Marlin is still submerged. And the next step --
now, what's happening today - the reason I'm showing you all these
pictures is to lead up to this point - this important point: It's
going to take several days for the Navy to be certain that the Cole is
ready to travel on the Blue Marlin. So we're in the process of doing
some testing to make sure that the ship is well seated on the Blue
Marlin, well buffered, et cetera, before the voyage begins. So it'll
be several days before the voyage of the Blue Marlin begins.
Q: And will that voyage involve a trip through the Suez Canal?
Bacon: And that voyage will involve a route that will be chosen by the
Navy at the time the ship leaves.
Q: But it's already on deck now, is that right?
Bacon: Well, this is - what they're doing is experimenting with the
best way to put the Cole on the deck of the Blue Marlin. So that is
not the final positioning. They're going to spend several more days
working on getting the best position.
Q: The Navy originally said it would take 24 to 36 hours to do this.
It's already been a couple of days. Have they encountered some
Bacon: No, I think they just want to be very careful. This isn't the
type of thing the Navy does every day, and they want to make sure that
the ship is well seated and secure before the Blue Marlin takes off.
Q: Ken, isn't it already out of the water?
Q: Isn't it already out of the water?
Q: It's not in that picture.
Bacon: No, not in this picture. She may be out of the water by now,
but still not expected to leave for several days.
Q: Where is that picture? Why can't we see that picture?
Bacon: I don't have that picture. These are the latest pictures I
Yes? There may be later pictures posted today, but these are the
latest ones I have now.
Q: Posted where?
Bacon: Posted on DefenseLINK, which I'm sure you check every day --
Bacon: - for the combat camera images.
Q: So that's the starboard side. Are we going to see pictures of the
Bacon: Well, you saw a picture of the port side; the first picture I
(To staff) We'll show the first picture again, please?
Q: A picture of the port side with the ship out of the water.
Bacon: Right there.
Q: That's the old - that's the same - essentially the same thing
we've seen every day.
Bacon: Well it hasn't changed.
Q: In other words, when it comes out of the water, it will be
different. It will be different?
Bacon: It will be out of the water. Right. Right.
Q: Are we going to see that picture?
Bacon: I can't promise that you will. But --
Bacon: Because it's a type of battle damage assessment. We know that
CBS will do very excellent battle damage assessment. But we think that
we'll just let - we may well not show that picture. That will be
Q: One more on the Suez Canal. There's sort of this popular wisdom
going on that the Cole will not travel through the Suez Canal because
of a terrorist threat, because it would be vulnerable. Is that true or
Bacon: As I said, the Navy will make a decision and announce the
decision, or not, at the appropriate time?
Q: On what basis will it make the decision?
Bacon: The Navy will make the decision on what it determines is the
best and safest way to transport the Cole back to the United States.
Q: Do we know where it's going in the United States? It's going to
Norfolk, or another location?
Bacon: I believe Norfolk is the leading possibility right now.
Q: Ken, on the Suez Canal, aside from the Cole's route, it's been
reported that the Navy made a decision, or someone in the U.S.
military made the decision not to transit the canal for the time
being. Is that not true?
Bacon: Let me just explain it again. There were no ships scheduled to
go through the canal. The only ship that was scheduled to go through
was the Donald Cook. The Donald Cook is going to accompany the Blue
Marlin bearing the Cole. So, wherever the Blue Marlin goes, the Donald
Cook will go. After that, there is no scheduled transit through the
canal for some time.
Q: (Off mike.)
Bacon: A matter of weeks. As I said, the ships pass through
episodically, sometimes with gaps of four to six weeks between
transits. Typically what you have is a battle group coming through
that might have four, five, six ships. They'll come through not
together but in sequence. And then you have some singletons or
doubletons going through from time to time. So there are long gaps
when no ships transit, no Navy ships transit the canal. Obviously,
commercial trips go through all the time.
Q: (Off mike.)
Bacon: Well, all I'm saying is, the mere fact that there's not a ship
going through today or tomorrow or next week doesn't necessarily mean
Q: But Ken, weren't there ships - aren't there ships now in the
Persian Gulf that were scheduled to have port calls in the
Mediterranean that will now have port calls in other parts of the
Bacon: I don't know how to be clearer about this. There are no ships
-- there were no ships, there are no ships now scheduled to go through
the canal for several weeks.
Q: (Off mike) - saying, though, that there was - the Pentagon or
CentCom issued instructions prohibiting ships from going through.
That's what the reports were saying. And you're saying there were no
Bacon: Right. I'm saying the mere fact that ships aren't going through
the canal doesn't mean that any instructions were issued.
We are evaluating, with the Egyptians obviously, the security
situation in the canal; we do that all the time, so do the Egyptians.
We both have a very fundamental interest in keeping the canal secure.
Q: No instructions have been issued?
Bacon: No instructions have been issued, right.
Q: Can you tell us what are the fees that American warships pay for
going through the Suez Canal?
Bacon: I cannot.
Q: They do pay a fee?
Bacon: Yeah, they do; they pay extensive fees. I just don't know what
they are; we're trying to get them. We've asked and so far we haven't
found the right "green eyeshade" guy in the Navy to tell us that.
[Fees are based on tonnage. The fee for an aircraft carrier is about
$440,000. Fees for other warships typically range from $10,000 to
Q: But it's in the neighborhood maybe, of a million dollars for the --
Bacon: Well, I think it varies on the size of the ship, obviously, but
we'll try to get those figures. I mean, I can't imagine that they're
impossible to get.
Q: Just to be clear: Since the Cole - well, since October 12th, there
have been no ships that were scheduled to go through the Suez Canal
whose itinerary has been in any way changed so as not to go through
the Suez Canal?
Bacon: No, that's not what I said. One ship was scheduled to go
through the Canal; the Cook. And the Cook's route will be determined
when the Blue Marlins route is determined.
Q: But other than the Cook, there were no other --
Bacon: That is my understanding; that there was a gap of a number of
Q: Ken, has the Pentagon given commercial shippers any advice - U.S.
commercial shippers any advice about whether they should use the
Bacon: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q: I have a little more different subject?
Q: Could you give us a readout --
Bacon: Are we through with this?
Q: Well --
Q: Go ahead.
Q: On a Cole-related subject: It's reported that there've been
discussions between the Pentagon and certain members of Congress about
where the Cole will be repaired.
Has Secretary Cohen or OSD had any discussions with Senator Lott or
the Mississippi Delegation about sending the ship to Ingalls?
Bacon: I'm not aware that we have, but my belief is the Navy will make
the decision. And of course there are a number of factors - a number
of factors will be part of the decision. But, I think that's all I
have to say about it now.
Q: Is the total ARG [amphibious ready group] going to stay in the Aden
area for the time being, or is it to be split up, or what's going to
happen with it?
Bacon: Well, the Tarawa will be involved in transporting some people
from the Cole and she may or may not go back to Aden, depending on the
need to house people in the Aden area, Americans who are still there.
There are very few Americans on the ground now, ashore, in Aden. There
are still quite a few in the area, but most of them are now bunking on
ships and it'll depend, in part, what the needs are to support those
Q: Could you explain what happened today? Apparently, the government
of Yemen has refused to allow either small boats from American ships
or American helicopters to land? In other words, the investigators
that are on the ships have been unable to get on the shore today.
Bacon: I'm not aware that's the case. I mean, it could well be; I just
hadn't heard that.
Q: Ken, has anybody - has the Navy talked to you at all about how
well the Aegis equipment actually survived the blast? You know, the
multi-million-dollar Aegis suite of electronics that is supposed to
take a combat hit? Is this thing able to protect itself and detect
Bacon: My understanding is the electronics is in pretty good shape. I
think we'll have a better idea once we get the ship back and test her.
But my understanding is that many of the combat systems are in good
Q: Where's the crew going? How many are staying with the boat and
where are the --
Bacon: I don't know what the breakdown is. The overwhelming majority
of the crew will come back to Norfolk, or to their home station.
Q: Do you know when?
Bacon: It depends on when the ship gets underway. But shortly after
the ship gets underway, they'll come home.
Q: Will they be flying back, or taking another ship?
Bacon: They'll be coming back - they'll be using what we call
Q: Which, in English, is?
Bacon: They'll be traveling on more than one type of carrier.
Q: Do you know where its captain will be?
Bacon: The captain, I believe, will stay with the Cole.
Q: For the entire transit?
Bacon: Yes. And a small contingent from the crew as well.
Q: Any new information on the Cole condition? Have the general and the
admiral been to Aden in the last --
Bacon: They are returning today from Aden, and elsewhere in Europe,
and they - I mean elsewhere in the region. They went to Europe first,
and then they went down to Aden. I don't know where else they stopped.
We're hoping that they will be here on Thursday. Our current plans are
that they'll be here on Thursday for a briefing to report as much as
Q: New subject?
Bacon: Are we through with this?
Q: Are we done?